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Belfast semtex discovery in flats shows threat to police is escalating, warns union

Dissidents determined to kill, says federation chief

By Deborah McAleese

Published 22/06/2016

Some of the Semtex plastic explosive found at a block of flats in north Belfast
Some of the Semtex plastic explosive found at a block of flats in north Belfast
Some of the Semtex plastic explosive found at a block of flats in north Belfast
PFNI’s Mark Lindsay

The Police Federation has warned that the discovery of Semtex at a block of flats in north Belfast points to a "ramping up" of the terror threat against officers.

Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said there was enough explosive in the find to make several under-car booby traps.

Police found 1.5kg of Semtex at Maeve House in the New Lodge area on Monday after a report from a member of the public.

It is the second time in two years that explosives have been found in Maeve House.

Two-and-a-half kilos of the explosive was found in a cupboard at the building in May 2014.

"There is a threat level that is rated severe in Northern Ireland and finding this quantity of Semtex points to no let-up in the determination of terrorists to kill and maim officers or other members of the security services," Mr Lindsay said.

"We must be constantly vigilant and aware. There must be no let-up or relaxation in our efforts to thwart and frustrate these mindless individuals."

Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said the items will now be subject to a detailed forensic examination.

"This was a significant recovery and we want to make sure that we gather every single piece of available information to assist us with our inquiries," he added.

"We are appealing to the public to assist us and continue working with us, and give us any information they have about any suspicious activity in this area which might assist our investigation."

Justice Minister Claire Sugden said she had been briefed about the "worrying find". "Those responsible really do have no regard for public safety and they do not conduct anything with care - their intent is to cause havoc and unfortunately this can cause injury or kill," she said.

"I find it incomprehensible that this material was found in a residential area." In recent months two terrorist hides containing bomb-making components were discovered in two forests near Larne.

Last month it emerged that the number of bombing incidents across the region increased by 44% within a year.

Last year there were 52 bomb attacks - including the booby-trap that killed prison officer Adrian Ismay - compared to 36 incidents in 2014/15, according to PSNI statistics.

These incidents include devices which exploded or were defused.

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